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Can people catch Avian Influenza from their poultry?

Avian Influenza has the potential to infect people. Currently, according to the FDA, a person would need to have

extensive direct contact with infected birds in order to catch it. So keep your hands away from your face, and wash your hands thoroughly after handling poultry and especially after contact with fecal matter. Use warm water and soap.

Eggs can carry Avian Influenza, but this would be a very rare circumstance as most hens with Avian Influenza stop laying eggs as one of the very first symptoms of the disease. Any eggs laid are usually misshapen and weak shelled.

Proper cooking and preparation of eggs will prevent Avian Influenza just as it would Salmonella. All of the regular recommended practices for prevention of any foodborne pathogen in eggs would also prevent Avian Influenza.

Here are the FDA’s recommendations for egg handling and cooking as a reminder:

  • Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20-30 seconds after handling eggs from your coop or raw eggs in general.
  • Thoroughly wash with hot water and soap any cooking utensils like silverware, cutting boards, bowls, etc. that have been in contact with raw eggs.
  • When cooking eggs, make sure that the whites and yolks are both firm.
  • Recipes containing eggs should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.

Also be aware of what you do with your egg basket when you come in from the coop. Don’t put it someplace where it can come into contact with other food like a head of lettuce. There is usually some fecal matter on the egg shells even if your eggs look clean and you keep your nest boxes fresh. Be sure to clean the spot on your counter where you put your egg basket with an antibacterial spray or soap and hot water.

What do I need to know about Avian Influenza?

Avian Influenza or Bird Flu is a serious issue in the U.S. this Spring. Since December 2014, there have been many cases of the disease reported, and there will certainly be more to come. So everyone with birds – whether it is a large commercial operation or a small backyard flock – needs to take precautions and be aware.

So what is Avian Influenza?
Avian Influenza is a flu virus. As with human flu viruses, Avian Influenza has many different strains. Some of these strains are very mild, and you wouldn’t even notice that your birds had anything wrong with them. But other strains of Avian Influenza are considered highly pathogenic and can spread fast and cause a devastating amount of illness.

The Avian Influenza that is of concern right now is a highly pathogenic one that can kill exposed birds in 48 hours, the H5N2 strain.

How is Avian Influenza spread?
Avian Influenza is spread either through direct contact of a healthy bird with an infected bird or through contact between a healthy bird and the feces of an infected one. In a poultry house, it also has the potential to be spread in an airborne fashion through mucus and nasal discharge.

The outbreaks this spring are probably due to the migration of wild birds. Wild ducks and geese can introduce Avian Influenza to a domestic flock of birds. Also, people can carry the virus on their shoes or clothing and bring it into the poultry house.

Is it safe to buy day old baby chicks?
Our day old baby chicks come from Avian Influenza monitored flocks. Because adult birds typically stop laying when Avian Influenza is contracted, as well as the fact that adult bird perish within 48 hours, there is no risk to buying chicks from Purely Poultry or any other NPIP/AI certified source.

What can I do to prevent my flock from getting Avian Influenza?
The biggest thing you can do is to limit exposure to wild birds like ducks and geese. Also, practice good biosecurity practices. Don’t cross-expose your flock with other flocks of birds.

Clean off your shoes after you have been someplace with birds and their droppings, especially before entering your own coop or property. Don’t expose your flock to used equipment or other dirty materials that have been around wild birds or other poultry facilities.


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